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Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Equalization Reform or Quebec Vote Buying Scheme?

Boy oh boy, is Ralph Goodale ever going to just go away. Even after being kicked to the other side of the House he’s still managed to poke his ugly mug into government policy. In his latest debacle, a panel setup by the industrious little Grit has thrown the whole country into turmoil over equalization. Even after months in the wilderness he’s still managed to get the daggers out and start the cutting.

Usually I don’t mind reports like the one tabled by this Westminster blue-ribbon panel. Reports commissioned by a previous government usually hit the shredder faster than a corporate donation hits the bottom of a Liberal wallet, but this time it’s different. This time the echoing silence from the Tory camp is overwhelming. This time the Tory team, starving for Quebec voters, may indeed be looking at implementing the mess this panel has recommended.

According to the plan more money should go to the poorer provinces in an effort to help with the so called “fiscal imbalance”. The problem is that their answer to the issue is to strip revenues from some “have not” provinces and funnel an additional $1.6 billion into Quebec, which already receives over half of the money paid out under the current equalization program. I’m sure Quebec can find good uses for that money, but Geeze, I thought vote buying in Quebec was bad enough when the Liberals were in office but this is a new record.

For Newfoundland and Labrador, which many consider to be the biggest loser in this plan, it would mean that over $200 million dollars would be taken away from the already small sum they receive (since the equation is partly based on population). That’s right, $200 million would be taken from a province with the highest per capita debt in the nation and one that can barely mange to provide third world services to some of the more remote villages across its large geographical area.

In addition to this insult, (the next part is not intended to enflame Quebec, but…), Newfoundland and Labrador, which has long felt wronged by Quebec over that province’s huge revenue stream from Churchill Falls, would end up footing a big part of Quebec’s new windfall out of its offshore oil revenues.

The inclusion of 50% of non-renewable resource revenues in the equalization formula (resources Harper had promised, in a letter to premier Williams, to completely remove, but which he now says is “…merely his party's preference on the issue.”), isn’t the only insult for Newfoundland and Labrador. The plan would also see the province’s newly minted Atlantic Accord deal capped at the fiscal capacity of Ontario. Essentially the same deal premier Williams stormed out of meetings and lowered the flag over while negotiating the Accord in the first place with, guess who?

That’s right folks, none other than former finance minister Ralph Goodale. At the time a Liberal spokesperson said that, “Newfoundland and Labrador would ‘be made to pay’ for what they did”. I guess that wasn’t an idle threat after all.

In an interview yesterday premier Williams said he wasn’t concerned because Prime Minister Harper has pledged in the past that no province will see its allotment reduced by changes to the equalization program. Well the premier may not be concerned but everyone else sure as hell is and his lack of concern is ticking me off more and more by the minute.

The Ontario government is not pleased because they would prefer equalization to poorer provinces be decreased, not increased. The BC government is upset because the recommendations would see them lose hundreds of millions of dollars each year. The Saskatchewan government is angry because they would be adversely impacted and the Alberta government (well really Ralph Klein) is even more belligerent than usual and is threatening to pull out of equalization all together, yet Danny Williams “…is not concerned.” Come on Danny, let’s see some of the backbone you displayed during the Accord talks.

I don’t know about premier Williams but I can assure the Prime Minister that the rest of the province is not only concerned, they’re royally cheesed. If Stephen Harper thinks Paul Martin got a rough time during the Atlantic Accord negotiations he hasn’t seen anything yet. If there is one characteristic that nearly everyone from Newfoundland and Labrador has in common, its tenacity and fight. A common trait for everyone that is except the province’s Tory representatives, including the cabinet minister for the Atlantic region Loyola Hearn, who appears to have contracted a bad case of laryngitis, or perhaps it’s “John Efforditis”? Either way he’s not saying anything and that isn’t good for my mood or his career as a politician.

If Mr. Harper thinks the people of this province are just going to sit idly by and see oil revenues, that were fought for and won taken away, he has another thing coming. If he thinks Alberta, Saskatchewan, British Columbia, Newfoundland and Labrador and even Ontario are going to just roll over and let this happen he had better fire his advisors now, before it’s too late. Think about it Steve, you’re a man who knows numbers, is it really worth losing so many seats across the country just to pick up a few more in Quebec?

You think about it as well Loyola. You waited a long time to sit on the government side of the House. How will you feel if you can’t even win your seat in the next election? A result I can almost guarantee you will come to pass if you don’t find your voice real soon.

The math of this thing might work for the Liberal party but the people of Canada elected Stephen Harper to do what he said he would do and one of those promises was to remove 100% non-renewable resource revenue from the equalization formula. Now that he’s in office he has promises to keep and a job to do, so I would suggest he get to it or he might just find himself being swept away by a whole new “red” wave next election. The voters put you in office Mr. Harper and the voters can take you back out. You’d be well advised to remember that.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Williams is dropping the ball on this one. He needs to jump on this and start kicking up a stink quick before anyone in Ottawa can even consider doing it. Once the idea is planted that this might work there'll be no stopping it.

Anonymous said...

I say revolt!!!

Time to make the move and pull out of this colonization we live under.

NL-ExPatriate said...

Just look at who sided with Harper to make his first budget pass so he wouldn't become Stephen Who.

The Block Quebecois.

Harpocrit doesn't care about this country he is just looking after number Harper and looking forward towards the next election.

How do you get elected in this country not without Ontario and Quebec who have 181 seats out of 308.

You can't really blame the politicians they are just working within the system that the people of Canada have selected for them to work within.

Canadian are supposed to be so compassionate and caring I'll bet there are fewer than 100 Canadians outside of NL who have read the Royal Commission on NL's place in Canada.
http://www.exec.gov.nl.ca/royalcomm/

Anonymous said...

The firt ministers are meeting this week and if this equalization thing isn't nipped in the bud there we should all revolt not just NL!!! Sitting by and waiting is the worst thing we could do becuase before you know it it'll be done.

Government always puts out trial baloons and this smells like one to me. If it doesnt' raise enough public outrage I bet it'll happen.

Anonymous said...

Danny is going to hold out on addressing the issue as long as he can. He will then come out swinging, which--- coinsides with the next provincial election! Then we will lift him up on high and parade him around the city.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if I would go so far as lifting him up on my shoulders and parading him around but I sure as hell hope he comes out swinging and long before the election. By then the decision could be made and it will be too late.

no longer proud said...

Obviously none of you heard the interview CBC radio did w/Danny yesterday evening... Danny may not be 'concerned' publicly, but I certainly got the impression that he is privately preparing for another battle w/Ottawa, 'just in case'. And that suspicion was confirmed today when I had the oppotunity to be part of a short conversation with a Conservative MHA.

No one has 'dropped the ball' yet.

Anonymous said...

danny on cbc sounded like rene leveqsue.

Lady_Celes said...

Equalization and transfer payments are a joke! They have been for the the past 10 or 12 years since the money started going to the provinces instead of from the feds directly to the rural communities to create local jobs. Now that the province gets the money they use it for their own purposes such as building new highways so that Irving and Bennett can transport toxic waste from USA into Canada.

Anonymous said...

Maybe we need a new Rene Leveqsue in this province!!!

Anonymous said...

Danny is insane. But then you Newfies will always lift him up and parade him around as your champion. Very sad.

Anonymous said...

NFLD politicans can go from hero to zero in one election flat. Danny's day will come when the electors take him out behind the shed.

Anonymous said...

What I don't understand is, what the hell gives you welfare bums in the eastern provinces, the right to stick your hands into my pockets and steal my hard earned money!!!!! through some GD equilization scam.